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Why are Brand Guidelines Important?

Does anyone actually care what the brand guidelines say? - Unnamed Client

Why spend time and money creating Brand Guidelines no customer will ever see? Why create these documents that invariably frustrate internal employees who want to use a new color or a new font?

What does a consistent brand identity provide for your business? What do creative pros working on behalf of your brand need to know about your tone-of-voice? If you talk to an experienced graphic designer, they’ll sing the praises of good, clear brand guidelines.

What are they, exactly? Internal documents that work like a Rosetta Stone for expressing or communicating a brand or on behalf of one. These pedantic (but usually pretty) tomes explain:

  • What a brand’s logo (or system of logos) is
  • How it should and shouldn’t be used
  • What fonts are to be used, including where and how
  • And other fiats about color, imagery, and layout that very few people who work outside of a marketing team will care much about

However, the branding agency that develops these guidelines care. A lot. In fact, they’re downright passionate about their creation, and even more passionate about their diligent use. 

Why?

Your branding agency designed these guidelines to help your business grow.

Let’s strip the emotion away and talk business, shall we? Here are three very profitable reasons why you should care about making sure your brand guidelines are adhered to faithfully by everyone inside — and outside — your organization.

The authority of consistency

When your brand’s communications are consistent over time, you begin to appear stronger, smarter, more cohesive. OK, that may be overstating the case a bit, but we’ve all experienced the impact of this. Think of any major brand with lots of different tactical executions: packaging, signage, web assets, social assets, print, broadcast, and yet they all maintain consistent use of logo, color, language. This is a brand that literally “has it all together.” That unified look and voice denotes confidence, intelligence, and presence. “A brand with a plan,” even if it doesn’t actually have one. That’s marketing authority.

The clarity of consistency

Clarity can perhaps be expressed by what it is not: namely, confusion. How confusing would a brand be if it had different logo executions that were deployed willy-nilly? How about inconsistent fonts, different colors, different tones of voice. Large brands often use both internal and external partners to create brand assets. One of the very best ways to ensure clarity of brand is to share a clear brand guide. Without that, and with multiple collaborations working in a vacuum, you’d experience a sort of schizophrenia. 
We’ve all been conditioned to believe that brands represent themselves in a certain way for a reason. Therefore, if inconsistency became a norm for a brand, customers would wonder what the brand was trying to say. It wouldn’t take long before customers gave up on figuring it out. In summary: Your customers expect clarity and purpose. Give it to them. 

The efficiency of consistency

When everyone on your team is addressing customer needs in the same way and your customer sees this, you set the stage for events in your business to occur more smoothly, and that includes sales. Internally, documents are created from established templates, communication draws upon similar language, even potential new hires simply “get” what your brand is about. Efficiency means speed to market and quicker decision-making. Bet you didn’t think that was a benefit of a well-planned and well-executed Brand Guidelines document.

A thought experiment

Imagine that you’ve hired a collection of the most gifted and award-winning content creators imaginable; amazing writers, videographers, and designers. Now imagine that you’ve withdrawn any restrictions whatsoever on brand guidance. What’s more, you’ve allowed everyone inside your company to be just as unencumbered. You’ve “set them free” to create on behalf of your brand: marketing, PR, social content, proposals, you name it. Pure talent, but no “swim lanes.” 

Can you imagine the pandemonium? Can you imagine what that would do to your brand authority in the marketplace?

The first thing creative thinkers would demand would be the restriction of brand definition. To filter the infinite possibilities and permutations of creation into a singular path—that is true creative freedom. 

Food for thought.

About the Author:

Sam Lowe conducts research to help build full-featured road maps and strategies for BS LLC clients ranging from hospitality to health care and manufacturing to high tech. He’s also delightfully addicted to 2-wheeled vehicles, classical music, and fine teas.